‘You wrote an action-thriller?’ a guest post by Tiffany Rosenhan
‘You wrote an action-thriller?’
Emphasis on YOU. As in me. Yes, I wrote an action thriller. And, yes, I’m surprised as YOU are.
Most summer days you can find me wearing a broderie dress and espadrilles, frolicking through the mountainous fields behind my Utah home, my four daughters traipsing behind me with ribbons in their hair and jubilantly singing Do-Re-Mi. . . okay this is more a fantasy of how I wish my real life was. But, you get the picture. More importantly, I get the picture.
Perhaps because most would consider me, um . . . ‘girly’ . . . no one anticipated that I would write an action-spy-thriller.
I suppose I could speculate the myriad reasons why I’m met with such astonishment when people read my book, but perhaps it all circles into a vortex of simple human contradictions. We – humans – are all contradictions, are we not?
I equally love sewing doll clothes and reading monotonous descriptions of tactical warfare. I am presently (and contentedly!) a stay home mother and a political scientist who once set out to join either the Foreign Service or the Central Intelligence Agency. I am both unabashedly feminine and feminist. I love Ann Brashares and John Le Carre!
And of this I am certain: we must stop suggesting that these characteristics can’t all coexist.
We can write in any genre we choose to, even if it doesn’t fit the pattern of who people think we are. Who we think we are.
Like every other female I know, I am a contradiction (though my identical twin sister and I are certain that in the original division of us, some traits were unequally distributed) and I hope, in writing the character of Sophia Hepworth that the following comes across emphatically: women have many, varied, oft-conflicting, interests!
I loved writing GIRL FROM NOWHERE, because not only did it offer me a reasonable opportunity to research and study so many of these interests at once, it also offered me a story that could weld them together, particularly those which are far removed from my daily life (car chases anyone?).
Creating GIRL FROM NOWHERE was akin to writing a fantasy novel, except here the elements of fantasy take shape in a hyper-reality of our own world. The spy world became a fantasy.
I’ve been fascinated by both spy craft and military history since early elementary school. Once, at my grandparent’s house in California, I spotted a tattered black and white magazine cover, depicting a photograph of two soldiers crawling ashore Guadalcanal under raging enemy fire. ‘Who are they?’ I asked my grandfather. “Marines,” he said. He then looked down, tapped his crooked forefinger to the face of the soldier in the foreground, and said, “That’s me.”
My grandfather – A Marine. The word alone impressed me. It still does. I was too young then to associate anything other than prestige with the word; it would be years before I heard about, and studied, PTSD.
However, if that photograph sparked my curiosity with military history and tradecraft, another sparked my fascination with the world. Most summers my twin sister and I would visit’s my father’s family’s farm in Ohio. Here, we would stay with my grandmother and she would instruct us to either read, explore, embroider, cook, clean, or play outside. There was an old television set, but I remember it only being turned on once, during a storm. She’d been a public school teacher before settling down to raise six children, and remained a voracious reader. Her house had many books.
My favorites included a collection of 1960’s encyclopedias. I was fascinated by the vintage pictures: vibrant toucans in Central America, zebras and antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa, Soviet women wearing traditional folk dress hanging laundry outside their cottages. . . It was the caption of this last photograph that caught my attention. It explained that these women resided in a country called Czechoslovakia, which according to my grandmother, had recently stopped existing. I couldn’t process. How does a country simply cease to exist? Does it disappear? Did it fall into the center of the earth? How? I did not, could not, understand.
On that rainy afternoon in the mid 1990’s, Czechoslovakia introduced me to the global trifecta: politics, diplomacy, and geography. Though I’ve since learned how a country actually ceases to exist, I’ve never stopped learning about the many reasons why.
So if these photographs sparked my curiosity about several topics that vein through GIRL FROM NOWHERE – geography, tradecraft, nature etc. – then motherhood ignited my willpower, and granted me the time, to write it all down.
From the moment Sophia Hepworth first took shape in my sub-conscious, I knew who I wanted her to become. And who I would not allow her to become. (Because, unlike with my children, I possess this power!) She would be skilled. Disciplined. Knowledgeable. Brave. She would also be an actual teenage girl. Hormonal. Frustrated. Moody. Prone to split-second-poor-judgement decisions. More than any other character trait I wanted to give Sophia, I wanted to ensure she remained just a regular (though super-skilled!) teenage girl entangled in a complicated life.
Therefore, in order to turn GIRL FROM NOWHERE into an actual manuscript, I needed facts. I read everything I could find that incorporated even a fragment of a location, skill, or event that interested me. I scoured encyclopedias, Wikipedia, and the library. I wanted to know everything I could about everything.
Which in case you are wondering, is impossible.
Yet, I loved this part of the process.
So, why did I write GIRL FROM NOWHERE as a thriller? Why not something more literary that offered a broader template to include more of the miscellaneous fruits of my laborious research?
I suppose my simplest answer is that I wrote exactly the type of book I like to read. I prefer fiction that is entertaining, informative, intriguing, and/or enthralling.
I like to be swept away, mesmerized by a plot so finely threaded through the narrative that I can scarcely pry away my eyes.
Yet, as all contradictory people might say, I also love literary fiction, epic historical tales, fantasy, and even memoirs. I’ve even been reading the Icelandic Sagas for a few days (years).
Above all else, I appreciate a well-paced story. And I knew, despite the enormous amount of effort it took to turn GIRL FROM NOWHERE from moderate ‘coming of age’ story into an ‘action-thriller’, it was the right decision.
I do actually wear sundresses and straw hats in summer; I do create whimsical tea parties for my daughters on rainy afternoons; I do pick wildflowers to assemble midsummer crowns.
Therefore, I do understand the contradiction. I am not necessarily qualified to write about avalanches, weapons or international espionage. Perhaps I should be writing and illustrating a children’s book of fairy tales instead. Perhaps I might!
However, becoming a published author has freed me from having to explain myself to myself.
When people ask ‘Why did you write a thriller?’
I now like to answer, ‘Why not me?’
Meet Tiffany Rosenhan
Tiffany Rosenhan is the granddaughter of Oscar-winning screen siren, Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon). She has a degree in political science and four young daughters, and often travels the world with her family and husband, who is a critical care physician. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is her debut novel. https://tiffanyrosenhan.com
About Girl from Nowhere
Red Sparrow meets One of Us Is Lying in this action-packed, romance-filled YA debut about a girl trying to outrun her past.
Ninety-four countries. Thirty-one schools. Two bullets. Now it’s over . . . or so she thinks.
Sophia Hepworth has spent her life all over the world—moving quickly, never staying in one place for too long. She knows to always look over her shoulder, to be able to fight to survive at a moment’s notice. She has trained to be ready for anything.
Except this. Suddenly it’s over. Now Sophia is expected to attend high school in a sleepy Montana town. She is told to forget the past, but she’s haunted by it. As hard as she tries to be like her new friends and live a normal life, she can’t shake the feeling that this new normal won’t last.
Then comes strong and silent Aksel, whose skills match Sophia’s, and who seems to know more about her than he’s letting on . . .
What if everything Sophia thought she knew about her past is a lie?
Cinematic and breathtaking, Tiffany Rosenhan’s debut stars a fierce heroine who will risk everything to save the life she has built for herself.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 07/21/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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